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Showing posts from March, 2013

King's Easter epistle on civil disobedience

Fifty years ago, the civil rights leader violated an injunction forbidding him to pray, sing or march in public in Birmingham, Ala. And he told his critics why. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s decision to violate an injunction forbidding him to pray, sing or march in public in Birmingham, Ala. On Good Friday 1963 (which fell on April 12 that year), King led a march from the 16th Street Baptist Church (where four black children would be killed in a bombing five months later), heading toward City Hall. He was almost immediately arrested, charged with violating a court order and taken to the Birmingham jail.

As he sat in jail on Easter Sunday and the days that followed, he wrote his "Letter From Birmingham Jail" to a group of moderate white clergymen who had issued a "call to unity" to civil rights activists, urging them to pursue legal remedies rather than engage in nonviolent protests. Any…

Armed citizen’ campaign in Arizona promises free shotguns for residents in crime-ridden neighbourhoods

— A campaign promising free shotguns for people to protect themselves in this Arizona city has divided some residents in a community still reeling from a shooting rampage in 2011 that killed six people, left a congresswoman and several others wounded, and made Tucson a symbol of gun violence in America.

The Armed Citizen Project is part of a national campaign to give shotguns to single women and homeowners in the nation’s crime-ridden neighbourhoods, an effort that comes amid a national debate on gun control after mass shootings in Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut.

While towns in Idaho, Utah, Virginia and Pennsylvania have debated ordinances recommending gun ownership, the gun giveaway effort appears to be the first of its kind.

“If you are not willing to protect the citizens of Tucson, someone is going to do it, why not me? Why not have armed citizens protecting themselves,” said Shaun McClusky, a real estate agent who plans to start handing out shotguns by May.

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Kochs, Chamber of Commerce Bankroll Judges’ Seminars On Corporate Crime And Capitalism

The Louisiana federal judge overseeing the civil trial over BP’s alleged gross negligence in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident attended a seminar in 2009 called “Criminalization of Corporate Conduct” sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 13 other funders. In 2011, that same judge dismissed a wrongful-death claim in a suit brought against ExxonMobil and Chevron USA for exposure to radioactive substances. Another judge who attended that seminar voted in a 2-1 holding to reject emissions caps that both the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber had opposed in briefs in the case.

In all, 11 percent of U.S. federal judges attended all-expense paid seminars whose top contributors included conservative foundations and major corporations between 2008 and 2012, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Sponsors often pay for participants airfare hotel stays and meals. Tim Meko reports:

Leading the list of sponsor…

NYPD on Trial: Police Say They Are Forced to Harass Kids in Order to Meet Quotas

Last week, NYPD whistleblowers Adhyl Polanco and Pedro Serrano, who secretly recorded supervisors demanding that officers fill quotas, testified in federal court that they were forced to violate the law to meet numbers. “We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” Polanco testified. The two officers are testifying in a class-action suit targeting the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.   Quotas for NYPD activity are illegal under New York labor law, but secretly recorded roll calls reveal supervisors pushing officers to get "20-and 1," meaning 20 summonses and 1 arrest per month. Monthly quotas also required five "250s," or street stops. 
“There’s a difference between” the department’s policies on paper and “what goes on out there,” in real life, Polanco told the court. 
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Monitoring New York City’s Police

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Commissioner Raymond Kelly are apoplectic about a bill pending in the City Council that would create the position of inspector general, an official with broad powers to review the policies of the nation’s largest police department. Given the department’s long history of episodic misconduct, the idea is one whose time has clearly come. The City Council should press ahead with the bill and be prepared to override a veto by the mayor.

Mr. Kelly’s assertion that an inspector general might impinge on law enforcement — or somehow make the city less safe — is utter nonsense. It ignores the fact that inspectors general scrutinize other city departments as well as police departments in other cities and federal agencies like the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. Their job is not to run things but to recommend improvements. The assertion that oversight is unnecessary ignores not only history but also the present — the department’s increasingly problematic…

Examples of Non-Self Defense Deaths Involving Persons Legally Allowed to Carry Concealed Handguns Hit 508--VPC Concealed Carry Killers March Update

March 28 - At least 508 people, including 14 law enforcement officers, have been killed since May 2007 in incidents not ruled self-defense involving private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns according to the March update of the Violence Policy Center's (VPC) Concealed Carry Killers on-line resource ( Because no comprehensive data exists on such non-self defense killings, the victims in Concealed Carry Killers are just examples taken from news reports and the limited state data available of the unknown, untabulated number of similar incidents that routinely occur across the nation.

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “The evidence is mounting that concealed carry permit holders perpetrate more crime than they prevent. Comprehensive data should be collected and released to the public so that the effect on public safety of issuing licenses to carry loaded handguns in public is measured by fact and not by the…

Schools Are Training Second-Graders to Attack Mass Shooters

Braden Kling, an eight-year-old from Middletown, Ohio, knows what to do. His school has prepared him for the moment of reckoning. "We have this big board and we hide behind that. If he comes in, we start throwing stuff," he explains. "Pencils, chairs, boxes, books, markers. And then we escape."

In the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians and educators have debated fiercely about how our nation should protect school children—with some schools turning to controversial tactics. Soon after National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre proposed stationing armed guards in every school in America, an Ohio school board approved plans to arm janitors. South Dakota recently passed a law allowing teachers to pack heat in classrooms. A high school in suburban Chicago held a drill in which police fired blanks in the halls in order to give staff and students "some familiarity with the sound of gunfire.&…

Albany Police: SWAT Used Poor Black Neighborhood for Training Because It's 'Realistic'

The chief of police in Albany, New York says that his department just wanted a "realistic" setting when it frightened residents in a poor, predominately African-American neighborhood with SWAT training exercises that included firing blank ammunition and exploding flash grenades.

On Thursday, Albany's SWAT team shocked nearby residents when it stormed a public housing complex that was scheduled to be demolished, according to the Times Union. Photos circulated on Facebook over the weekend showed police in tactical gear, spent shell casings and fake blood.

In a statement on Monday, Police Chief Steven Krokoff called the training "insensitive."

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The Justices Are Not Ready To Bring Marriage Equality To Alabama, And They Want Prop 8 To Go Away

There are probably five justices who object to California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 and who would prefer to see it struck down. Justice Kennedy, the conservative viewed as most likely to provide the fifth vote for equality, openly pondered whether Prop 8 violates the Constitution’s ban on gender discrimination. Kennedy at one point admitted uncertainty about whether there is sufficient evidence examining the effect of marriage equality on society, but he then pivoted to note that the nearly 40,000 children raised by gay parents in California suffer “immediate legal injury” because of Prop 8. His vote is not entirely clear, but Kennedy leaned significantly in the direction of justice.

A weak performance by Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending discrimination, probably went a long way to push Kennedy into the pro-equality camp. When Justice Sotomayor asked Cooper to identify a single example outside of marriage where discrimination against gay couples could be “rational,” Coope…

Prop. 8 lawyers: Supreme Court justices asked 'penetrating' questions

Speaking before a bank of microphones on the Supreme Court steps moments after the argument over gay marriage in California ended, lawyers for both sides said the justices asked probing questions and did not reveal much about how they would decide the case.

Proponents in favor of legalizing gay marriage in California erupted in cheers and whistles as David Boies and Ted Olson emerged from the central door to the court. Both high-profile lawyers were part of the legal team arguing that the court should overturn the state ban.

Boies told reporters it was "amazing" that the proponents of Proposition 8, the initiative that prohibited gay marriage, made "no effort to defend the ban on gay marriage."

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Shrinking Prisons, Saving Billions

The mandatory sentencing craze that gripped the country four decades ago drove up the state prison population sevenfold — from under 200,000 in the early 1970s to about 1.4 million today — and pushed costs beyond $50 billion a year. Until recently, it seemed that the numbers would keep growing. But thanks to reforms in more than half the states, the prison census has edged down slightly — by just under 2 percent — since 2009. A new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the decline would have been considerably larger had the other states not been pulling in the opposite direction.

Over the last five years, 29 states have managed to cut their imprisonment rates, 10 of them by double-digit percentages. California, which has been ordered by the Supreme Court to ease extreme prison crowding, led the way with a 17 percent drop, mainly by reducing parole and probation revocations and shifting custody of low-level offenders to counties. Other states reduced prison term…

A Roadmap for Fighting Racism

On this day in 1960, white police officers in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire on a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration killing 69 black South African protestors. To mark the solemn occasion of what came to be known as the "Sharpeville Massacre," the international community proclaimed this day as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – an occasion to amplify efforts to eliminate racism.

Closer to home, today is a particularly appropriate time to remind the Obama administration that it needs to make good on a promise it made to the international human rights community to come up with a concrete plan to battle discrimination and fully comply with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms or Racial Discrimination, also known as ICERD.

When it comes to racism, putting partisan differences aside should be easy. We can all agree that racial discrimination violates the fundamental human right …

Washington Police Retraining Drug Dogs Not To Sniff For Marijuana After Legalization

Recently, the Supreme Court reiterated that police may search a suspect when a trained drug sniffing dog indicates that the suspect is carrying drugs or other illegal materials, and “all the facts surrounding a dog’s alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime.” Thus, if police wish to search a suspect for drugs, but lack a constitutional basis to do so, a drug dog can sniff the suspect and provide police with probable cause for a search if the dog “alerts.”

In Washington state, however, it is no longer a crime for someone of legal drinking age to carry up to an ounce of marijuana — and that changes the constitutional status of dog sniff. If a dog is trained to sniff out marijuana and cocaine, and it alerts after sniffing an adult suspect, that no longer would lead a “reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime” beca…

As crime plummets, it's costing us more, thanks to Harper

Crime is way down but we're paying more and more for policing, the legal system and prisons under the federal Conservatives.

While the crime rate fell 23 per cent over the last decade, the cost of dealing with it skyrocketed by a similar amount - to $20.3 billion a year, the Parliamentary budget officer reported Wednesday.
That's about the same amount Canada spends on military defence.

And that's not including the rising costs of victims' compensation, private security or related civil bills.

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NYPD Spent One Million Hours, 440,000 Arrests on 'Marijuana Crusade'

NYPD marijuana arrests the 'frontline civil rights issue' of the 21st centuryAccording to a shocking new report released Tuesday by the Drug Policy Alliance, in just over a decade the NYPD has used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 arrests for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession, in what critics are calling "a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century."The report titled One Million Police Hours and authored by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College, estimates that those detained in New York City for marijuana possession between 2002 and 2012 have spent roughly 5,000,000 hours in police custody. The NYPD should be spending their time building communities, not tearing them down, said gabriel sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“For years, New Yorkers from across the state have organized and marched and rallied, demanding an end t…

Police Union and NYPD Collaborated to Set Arrest Quotas

New York City's police union and the NYPD collaborated to set arrest quotas for officers, confirms an audio recording obtained by The Nation on Tuesday.

In the audio clip, recorded in 2009 by officer Adil Polanco, a union delegate argues for "20-and-1": a monthly quota for each officer of 20 summonses and one arrest. According to several police interviewed by The Nation, some officers are forced to "seek out or even manufacture arrests" in order to meet quotas and avoid department retaliation.

The audio could be used as evidence in Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., a case that opened yesterday in federal district court, whose plaintiffs allege the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy results in racial profiling. From The Nation:

The NYPD has just surpassed 5 million stop-and-frisks during the Bloomberg era. Most stops have been of people of color, and the overwhelming majority were found innocent of any wrongdoing, according to the de…

Very Little Changes As Gun Lobby Once Again Thwarts Feinstein on Assault Weapons

Harry Reid drops her assault weapons ban from the Democratic gun-control package as the NRA cheers.

Everyone knew that Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban was going to be the toughest gun-control reform to achieve in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Although it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on a party line vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Feinstein last night that it won’t be part of the still-undefined gun control package he’ll bring to the Senate floor. Feinstein is free to introduce her bill, which bans 157 models of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as an amendment to the package, but it will almost certainly fail.

“People say, well aren’t you disappointed; I say, of course I’m disappointed,” a visibly frustrated Feinstein told reporters (including Salon’s Alex Seitz Wald) Tuesday afternoon. “Because if it was in a package it would take 60 votes to get it out.” She suggested asking Reid directly about…

Renting out a private parking spot in Toronto is illegal

Online services match private driveways to people needing parking. But it breaks city bylaws — and some say it’s time the city updated them.

For $80 a month, you can rent a west-end driveway on College St. Or there’s an off-lane spot in the Annex for $100. A Yorkville driveway goes for $12 per day. Kijiji, Craigslist and list dozens of available parking spots for rent in Toronto. The problem, however, is that renting out private parking is technically illegal in this city and could result in a $25,000 fine, although that’s unlikely. Parking rental websites are among new services created by computer- and smartphone-savvy developers that enter legal grey areas in Toronto. And some people say it’s time the city updated those bylaws.

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North Dakota's Efforts to Ban Abortion Put Women Back 100 Years

Conservative state looks to push its agenda on the national level as others compete for title of 'most restrictive' As Bloombergreports:
House Bill 1456 would make it a felony for a doctor to perform a non-emergency abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as five or six weeks. House Bill 1305 would prohibit abortions sought because a fetus has been or could be diagnosed with any genetically inherited defect, disease or disorder.
And ThinkProgress' Tara Culp-Ressler explains how this fits into a national push by anti-choice activists and religious zealots trying participating in a race to erase the gains made for reproductive rights in the last century:
So far this year, anti-choice lawmakers in Arkansas and North Dakota have practically tripped over each other to see which state can impose more abortion restrictions. Arkansas initially pulled into the lead by imposing two stringent restrictions, a 20-week abortion ban and, later, a…

Infographic: Youth Incarceration in the United States

This infographic provides information on youth incarceration in the United States, visualizing the national and state drop in youth confinement, racial disparities within the juvenile justice system and they type of offenses committed by youth. In addition, the piece highlights five responses communities can take to support better services for these youth.

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10 Crazy Gun Laws Introduced Since Newtown

In the wake of the Newtown massacre in December, lawmakers in nearly every state in the nation have introduced gun legislation, either to strengthen gun controls or push back against them. There has also been a flurry of activity in local jurisdictions. Some of the proposals fall into the category of reasonable policy ideas, while others just seem to fire wildly, in both political directions. Here are 10 of them:

Glocks and gimlets: Allowing guns in bars has become something of a trend lately. A bill introduced in South Carolina would legalize concealed carry in bars and void the current law punishing the same with a fine of up to $2,000 or three years in jail. Gun owners would be required to remain sober, but the prospect of patrons packing heat in places where alcohol and attitudes mix remains worrisome, especially as self-defense laws grow increasingly lax. Another bill awaiting approval from the state Senate in Georgia would allow guns in bars and churches.

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6 Ways the US Supreme Court Has Trashed and Rewritten Our Constitution

What a sorry state the Supreme Court is in, with a creep like Scalia attacking the Voting Rights Act as a “phenomenon that is called racial entitlement.”

 O tenderest of mercies! The right to speak one’s mind freely, the right to question and challenge—upon which all other rights are hinged. 1. “Corporate Personhood”
The first attack came almost two hundred years ago in 1819, as the Industrial Revolution was beginning to spin serious wheels in the budding Empire. Blacks picked cotton in the South and the mills hummed in Lowell, Mass., and other river-blessed locations in the North. It was a hundred years after Newcomen’s steam engine, and less than two decades after Fulton’s steamboat would once again spur our westward expansion. Given such multifactoral impetus, and its own proclivity—established by Marshall—to oversight, how could our Supreme Court restrain its worst intentions?

And so it declared, in “Trustees of Dartmouth College vs Woodward,” the principle of “corp…

Demonstrators Met With Riot Police, Arrests at Vigil for Brooklyn Teen Shot by Police

Heavy police presence, "media blockout" continue in days following shooting of Kimani Gray Police officers arrest a demonstrator during a march after a vigil held for Kimani "Kiki" Gray in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)Demonstrators gathered for a third night in a row in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn Wednesday night over the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray by the NYPD over the weekend. Residents from the area who marked the evening with another protest and candlelight vigil were met once again by riot police—who arrested up to 50 protesters in the area including Gray’s sister. Sophie Lewis at In These Timesreports that the "whole of East Flatbush is becoming a so-called Frozen Zone: an unofficial NYPD tactic of totally excluding the media from an area."

Lewis reports on the scene Wednesday night:

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NYPD Policy Will Deter Reports from Domestic Violence Victims

As if being beaten within an inch of their lives wasn't enough, now domestic violence victims can be jailed if they have an open warrant and report their beating to the police.

The New York Postreports that NYPD cops are required to run criminal background checks on victims of domestic violence.

Women who report domestic violence are exposing themselves to arrest under a new NYPD directive that orders cops to run criminal checks on the accused and the accuser, The Post has learned.

The memo by Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties.

“You have no choice but to lock them up” if the victims turn out to have warrants, including for minor offenses like unpaid tickets, a police source said.

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NRA's LaPierre lashes out at gun control efforts during CPAC speech

Wild applause greets LaPierre's CPAC address, in which he defended his call to put armed guards in America's schools

Wayne LaPierre, the head of the biggest gun lobby group in the US, defended his call to put armed guards in every school on Friday and declared that the answer to violent crime was to put guns in the hands of more people.

Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) just outside Washington DC, LaPierre mocked those who call him "crazy" and delivered a powerful call for the widespread use of guns for Americans to defend themselves.

"The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun," he said, to wild applause.

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Private Prison Executive Isn’t Telling The Truth About GEO’s Record Of Juvenile Abuse

In the wake of the announcement that Florida Atlantic University would name its football stadium after private prison corporation GEO Group for a hefty price, an executive at the company is disseminating false and misleading information about the firm’s practices and documented abuses at its facilities.

In both a statement to reporters and an op-ed, GEO Vice President for Corporate Relations Pablo Paez has falsely claimed that horrific abuses at a GEO juvenile detention facility in Mississippi described by the Department of Justice as “systematic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls” occurred before GEO took control of the prison, even though both DOJ and court documents clearly show otherwise. ACLU National Prison Project Staff Attorney Carl Takei explains in a column:

Last week, [Paez] e-mailed a statement to reporters decrying the news coverage as “unfair,” particularly with regard to Walnut Grove. He wrote:

“For ins…

Christie Blatchford: Ashley Smith’s belief that ‘death is the only way out’ not the true lunacy of her case

The lunacy of what happened to teenager Ashley Smith is sometimes so staggering that even now, in month three of the Ontario coroner’s inquest probing her death, it utterly beggars belief.

On Oct. 18, 2007, the day before Ashley asphyxiated in her isolation cell, the teenager told a prison psychologist she had “lost hope of ever getting out of prison and believes that death is the only way out.”

The comments are found in the notes of Dr. Cynthia Lanigan, a psychologist at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women, the final stop on Ashley’s grand tour of federal prisons and hospitals.

But this is not where the madness lies: Dr. Lanigan recommended the 19-year-old be constantly monitored and noted she remained “a high risk for suicide.”

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Why More Cops in Schools Is a Bad Idea

Even before Newtown, more cops were patrolling our schools. Parents, judges, and civil libertarians give them failing grades for treating routine discipline like a crime. In post-Newtown America, those with power say they must act to prevent another massacre of innocents.

The Obama administration wants stiffer gun control, and $150 million to help schools hire up to 1,000 more on-campus police or counselors, or purchase security technology. State legislators are considering shifting millions of dollars around to help schools hire more police. Some locals aren't waiting: The 5,500-resident town of Jordan, Minnesota, has moved its entire eight-officer police force into schools.

"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun," National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said after a young man shot his way into his former grammar school on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 first-graders and 6 edu…

Unequal justice: Behind the Ontario jail data and Toronto Star analysis

Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services was quick to release adult data, but children’s ministry fought the request

The data that serve as the foundation for this look at Ontario jail populations by ethnicity was obtained through freedom of information requests by Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a University of Toronto doctoral candidate.

While the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services was quick to release adult data, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which oversees youth incarceration, fought the request, citing privacy concerns.

The youth ministry also argued that Owusu-Bempah ought to have made a research proposal, as opposed to an FOI. It initially said the requested ethnicity data — with the exception of aboriginal people — did not exist, and, finally, that producing it would cause hardship to the ministry.

Following a successful appeal by Owusu-Bempah and an order by the Information and Privacy Commissi…

To Stem Juvenile Robberies, Police Trail Youths Before the Crime

Todd Heisler/The New York Times John Rivera, 19, during a New York Police Department juvenile intervention program visit. 
Three police officers knocked on the apartment door of a 15-year-old boy. He had already been on both sides of a police blotter: shot and stabbed, but also arrested on robbery charges. He ran in an East Harlem gang and lived with his grandmother on the seventh floor of a public housing building, where the stairwells reeked of marijuana. 
He was the type of teenager destined for trouble. And that was precisely why the officers were at his door on a recent winter night. The New York City Police Department has embarked on a novel approach to deter juvenile robbers, essentially staging interventions and force-feeding outreach in an effort to stem a tide of robberies by dissuading those most likely to commit them. 
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Unequal Justice: Aboriginals caught in the justice system trap

Aboriginal men and especially women are overrepresented in Ontario jails, often after minor crimes lead to deeper trouble. A number of programs including special courts are trying to help.

Jill Buckshot, a former Miss Algonquin Nation, stole steaks from an Ottawa grocery store and sold them to support her addictio

As Jill Buckshot describes the addiction that helped put her in prison, her words sometimes slur together over the phone, so that she has to spell out “dope sick” and “Dilaudid.”

“Dope sick” refers to the violent physical reaction that occurs when an addict goes a day without drugs. The second term is the narcotic she would steal for.

Buckshot, who became addicted at 25 after having surgery and taking a prescribed narcotic for the pain, would steal steaks from an Ottawa grocery store by hiding them under large packages of toilet paper. Then she’d sell them for half-price.

The thefts kicked off a cycle of incarceration, a revolving door that spun her in and …

Analysis: Why we should worry about who we’re jailing

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies analyzes why blacks and aboriginals are overrepresented in Ontario correctional system, and why this matters.

It may be of little surprise to some, but the over-incarceration of First Nations and African-Canadian people in Ontario should be of concern to everyone in this country.
The overrepresentation of these two groups in Ontario’s correctional system signals that aboriginals and blacks are either disproportionately involved in crime or they face discrimination in the administration of justice; available research indicates both to be true.
Why should we work to remedy this? 
As the situation in many American states has made apparent, using incarceration as a means of controlling populations that are viewed as problematic in an effort to reduce crime is a costly endeavour that further intensifies the problems facing these communities rather than making them better. A smarte…

GOP Caves, Stops Blocking Violence Against Women Act

On Thursday, following a heated debate on the House floor, lawmakers passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Republicans had held up the law for more than a year over provisions designed to protect undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, and members of the LGBT community. In a separate, earlier vote, the House rejected an alternative, stripped-down VAWA pushed by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, instead embracing the bipartisan version of the bill the Senate passed last week.

The Senate version of the bill, however, was itself a modified version of Democrats' original bill, passed after Democrats acquiesced to Republican objections and removed a section that would have made more visas available to undocumented victims of domestic violence who help law enforcement prosecute their abusers. But the Senate's compromise bill wasn't good enough for the House Republican leadership, who introduced an alternate version that removed protecti…

African American Incarceration Rates Falling, Report Finds

Reversing a longtime trend, the incarceration rate for African Americans declined significantly over the last ten years, particularly among women. As the New York Times highlights, the drop is a noteworthy shift in the stark racial disparities that “have long characterized” both the prison and incarceration systems. Overall, however, U.S. incarceration rates remain the highest rate in the world, and the proportion of African Americans who are locked up — particularly men from certain demographics – remains shockingly high. In a new study by The Sentencing Project, Mark Mauer provides the take-aways:
Racial/ethnic disparities in U.S. incarceration remain substantial – In 2009, African Americans and Latinos constituted more than 60% of imprisoned offenders. African American males were incarcerated in state and federal prisons at 6.4 times the rate of non-Hispanic white males, and Hispanic males at 2.4 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites.Read on...